Posted on

Oxytocin: The Love Hormone

My name is Ashton Gelzinis, and I am one of the founders of Birth Naturally Brevard, LLC, a childbirth education and doula service business. My partners, Julie O’Neill and Elizabeth McLean, and I have served women in Brevard for several years and love every minute. We are also the owners of a small retail shop called The Oxytocin Emporium where we sell merchandise to support our doula clients and sister birthworkers! We absolutely love the name of our shop because of our fascination with the hormone oxytocin. We hope that our work only raises the levels of oxytocin in the room!

During our time supporting pregnant women and their partners, we have found ourselves fascinated by the process and how women’s bodies evolve and prepare in the weeks leading up to their birth. The hormones of undisturbed labor and the role they play not only during birth, but throughout the mother’s postpartum recovery are nothing but amazing. There are lots of hormones at play during this process, but the one we all hear most often is oxytocin.

Oxytocin. “The Love Hormone.” “The Cuddle Hormone.” This single hormone plays a major role in women’s bodies throughout their lives, but most importantly in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Outside of pregnancy and birth, oxytocin contributes to fertility, digestion, wound healing, morality, personal connection, and many other situations throughout our lives.

“Oxytocin is the hormone of love. We share it when we have a good conversation, we share it when we make love, and when we hug, and BIRTH is the biggest brightest time of oxytocin sharing.” -Robin Lim

Let’s look at how this incredible hormone contributes to birth – the way it is supposed to. It plays a pivotal role in the birth process, not only to encourage surges, but it provides the mother with space to fall in love and bond with her newborn.

While laboring, the mother’s body releases oxytocin in response to the pressure of the baby on the pelvic floor. This release of oxytocin brings on those amazing powerful surges that help to efface and dilate the cervix, push the baby down into the birth canal, and birth the placenta. Oxytocin is released throughout the pregnancy, but really reves up just before and during birth for these reasons. In certain situations, mothers can encourage a release of oxytocin with nipple stimulation, a quiet, intimate break with her partner, or clitoral stimulation. If a labor is considered “slow to progress,” trying some of these techniques may help encourage that release and speed up the process rather than using synthetic oxytocin that doesn’t work in the same ways in the body.

Once the baby is born, more oxytocin is released, the placenta is delivered and afterbirth contractions continue to help close up the placental site and slow bleeding.

When her baby is born, the mother takes one look at this new life and gets another burst of this amazing hormone to help encourage her to bond and fall in love her new bundle. Oxytocin forces us to slow down and focus on what is most important – nurturing and feeding our baby. Every latch causes another release that helps to slow any postpartum bleeding and encourages her uterus to return to its original size before baby. The oxytocin released during nursing also encourages a healthy milk supply.

Another interesting oxytocin tidbit is that not only birthing mothers release oxytocin. Partners who are involved and present for the birth of their child release higher levels of oxytocin through the end of the pregnancy. Their levels actually continue to stay higher than average for about 6 months after the birth. This hormone in partners who didn’t give birth perform a very similar job – encourages bonding and loving. It truly is the “Love Hormone.”

In any birthing room, let’s do our part to let this hormone work it’s magic. Let’s give women the space they need to birth their babies. Let’s step away from the technological additions to birth and let mothers’ bodies work. When a woman is undisturbed, her body’s hormones work together with her baby to find just the right path for them. As doulas, we hold space, we remind mothers that the oxytocin is working and her body is nothing but incredible. That truly is the honor of my life. Let the oxytocin flow!

 

Posted on

Adina’s Testimonial

Attending the BirthWorks childbirth education workshop in Mt Dora, Florida this May was way more than I bargained for! The place was absolutely stunning. A Victorian style historical hotel with sprawling grounds against a backdrop of the magnificent lake and quaint town. But even more than that was the content of this 3 day workshop given by Cathy Daub. The workshop was so comprehensive and included topics such as grieving, mother daughter relationships, optimal pelvic positioning as well as many others that are not usually included in typical childbirth preparation classes. They were all taught through hands on experimental learning and not through didactic teaching. It was the BirthWorks experience I came out with!

One of the really vital things was teaching and facilitating using open ended questions and letting the other party find their inner guide to direct them. That evening I had a chance to really practice this skill. Being a doula, I had a client in labor and sent a backup.  Right before pushing, my backup called me asking if I could speak to the client as she was panicking about pushing. Instead of going into my long speech about why she shouldn’t be scared to push and how she’s done this in the past, I asked her what her fear was. She said she’s afraid she can’t do it. I asked her what she felt she needed to be able to move forward and she said she thought she needed help from the doctor. I said what kind of help. She said she remembered from her last birth that the doctor did supra pubic pressure because the baby’s shoulders got stuck. I gently reminded her that the only reason the doctor did that was to help the shoulders but the head was out already. So she said, “oh ok, but I’m still scared.”  So I asked her, “What do u want?”  She said she wanted her baby to come out without pushing. I said great. Imagine it. She said she can’t because she  has no energy. So at that point I told her to visualize G-ds energy as she inhales coming into her uterus and as she exhales pushing out her baby. She said,”Ok you visualize it for me!”   I said sure and she hung up empowered and pushed her 9 and half pound baby out with one push!!!

It was such a great lesson for me and I can’t thank Cathy and BirthWorks enough!

Earlier that day this same client was laboring pretty slow so I instructed my backup to do the rocking technique we had just learned that morning and she progressed very quickly to 10 cm!

Recently I had a prenatal meeting for a client who had 2 previous c sections and I used the grieving process we learned, asking her if she wanted to share anything that was hurting her  and she ended up telling me about a few childhood moves her family made when she was in school and how she was afraid to get too close to anyone and then have to move again and she came up with the idea that she was scared to carry something through to the end, the finish line. Explaining to her how we birth the way we live, both her previous births she stalled at 3 cm and wasn’t able to progress further. That awareness was amazing for her and it’s all due to the skills I learned in the grieving session.

Thanks a lot!

Adina Hoffman

 

Posted on

Birth Testimonial

by Erika Sanchez   Written January 4, 2019

My husband and I attended the Birth Works (birthing class) at Beach Cities this past October. It was taught by Janell Bartzatt.

This was our 3rd baby. The first two were healthy, hospital births. We had taken a birthing class at the hospital 7 years ago with our first child and almost didn’t sign up for this one. But because it was our first out-of-hospital birth, we decided it would probably be a good idea. I think we both felt pretty knowledgeable already on birth! But we both learned more from this class than we had through reading dozens of books and living through two deliveries!

Janell’s class not only covers a kind of what to expect, physically. But it also went through what to expect, emotionally. I left the class with such a clear understanding of what baby is going through during that labor, how I can help assist, and how to manage my pain. My husband felt more involved too. He had a better understanding of what he could do to help me through it.

We talked about fears and concerns we may have and how to move them to a place of control. Knowledge is power. So many of my fears were just from not knowing.

I left the class feeling empowered and that I could do this! It is so natural and not scary. Janell’s understanding on the topic made the class fun- it was a safe place to ask questions and to find real answers.

My daughter was born at Beach Cities 11 days ago on Christmas Eve morning. To say it was the perfect birth is an understatement. It was really everything I had wanted it to be. I really owe so much of that to Janell and this class. I was able to talk to myself to relax and breathe. My husband knew counter pressure points to help with the pain when it got really intense. Labor wasn’t happening to me- I was 100% in control. I was 100% present and it was amazing!

Posted on

When Will my Baby Sleep Through the Night?

By: Katie Sanzi, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and owner of Sleepyhead Consulting

This is a difficult question to answer without getting into some specific details, which is unfortunate, because when parents ask me this, I know they’re looking for a quick, concise, time-based answer.

“Three nights from now,” or “Six months old,” are the kind of responses they’re hoping for, and the kind I wish I could give them, but there are a lot of factors to consider, and some things to understand before you can narrow down the timeline.

The first thing I feel parents need to understand is this…

Your baby will never sleep through the night.

That’s right! They won’t sleep through the night when they’re toddlers, or when they’re teenagers, or when they’re grown-ups, because nobody ever does.

We human beings sleep in cycles, which vary from light sleep to deep sleep and back again. Occasionally, when we get into the light sleep stage of a cycle, we hear a noise, or we’re in the middle of a crazy dream, or the dog jumps on the bed, or we just shift a little, and that little thing, whatever it may be, is just enough to wake us up.

As adults, we have experienced this thousands of times, so we just shake it off and go back to sleep. Most of the time, the wake-up is so brief that we don’t even remember it the next day.

But for babies who are used to being rocked, sung, bounced or nursed to sleep, waking up in the night requires external help to get back into a peaceful slumber.

So that’s the reason why baby’s never going to sleep through the night, but then, that’s not what parents are really asking.

What they want to know is, “When will my baby be able to get back to sleep on their own?”

That’s a much easier question to answer. Quite simply, this will happen when they learn how.

When you teach your little one to go to sleep on their own, they’ll be able to employ that skill multiple times a night, every night, for the rest of their lives.

Now, there’s more to it than just leaving your baby alone in their crib and letting them figure it out for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, that approach has worked for a lot of people, but it’s not one that everybody is comfortable using, and it’s not the most gentle or effective way of teaching your baby great sleep skills.

The traditional Cry-It-Out approach is a lot like leaving your child in front of a piano with some sheet music and saying, “Figure it out.” Eventually, they just might, and you might just have the Elton John of sleeping on your hands. But assuming your child isn’t gifted in the sleep department, (and I’m just assuming they’re not, since you’re reading this) they could probably benefit with some lessons.

And as with any skill that a child needs to learn, practice is essential, so let them give it a shot. There’s probably going to be a bit of crying, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go in and encourage, comfort and reassure them.

What you shouldn’t do, however, is sit down at the piano and play it for them. Obviously, that doesn’t teach them anything. So whatever it is that you’ve traditionally done to get your child to go to sleep in the evening, or in the middle of the night, whether it’s giving them a pacifier, rocking them back to sleep, nursing them, whatever, these “sleep props” are the equivalent of playing the piano for your child to teach them how.

They may be frustrated, they may get upset, but they’ll learn with a little time and practice.

So although I can’t give an exact date or age when your baby will go through the night without crying and demanding help to get back to sleep, I can tell you without hesitation that it will be much, much sooner if you stop doing it for them.

As for teaching your little one to play piano, you’re on your own with that one.

 

Sleepyhead Consulting, LLC
570-436-3390
PO Box 36, Lattimer Mines, PA 18234

Posted on

The Infant Microbiome: 6 Things Every Parent Should Know

Guest post by Toni Harman

Unleashing the Science: 6 Things Every Parent Should Know About The Infant Microbiome

Filmakers Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford collaborated on MICROBIRTH
Filmakers Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford

For the past five years, I have been fully immersed in bacteria. More specifically, my partner and I have explored the wonders of the human microbiome, the bacterial ecosystem that lays the foundations for lifelong health.

As documentary filmmakers, we’ve been in a privileged position to travel tens of thousands of miles interviewing dozens of world-leading professors.
Continue reading The Infant Microbiome: 6 Things Every Parent Should Know

Posted on

Becoming Home: A Memoir of Birth in Bali

by Melinda Chickering
 
When I tell friends from the USA, my home country, how we chose to give birth, they always say, “You’re so brave!” What would possess an educated, middle-class, thirty-something American woman to choose to give birth in a bathtub in Bali, rather than ensuring that she had the most advanced medical care in the world at her disposal, just in case?
Friends and family at home in the USA followed their cultural cues and ob/gyn’s advice. American culture prizes rationality, efficiency, risk mitigation, comfort and convenience. Most people take their doctors’ advice, have extensive pre-natal testing, give birth in a hospital, experience numerous interventions, and do not consider low-tech alternatives. Without the cultural tethers of ‘home’ and family, we faced a daunting freedom and sought our own way. I had always been one to do my research, and the pregnancy research revealed polarized opinions about how and where it’s best to give birth.
In over 30 years on Earth, I had never seen a birth – not of a farm animal, a pet or a person. My mom has four children, including two who appeared when I was an adolescent. Presence at their births could have been a marvelous bit of sex education! But in my home culture, birth is kept behind closed doors, a mysterious event fraught with pain, risk and fear. I hope that sharing my story will strip away some of the mystery and reveal some of the magic.
This is the story of how and why we decided to bring our baby into the world as we did, how it went, and how it changed my outlook on life. The answers we found in Bali and within ourselves paid off in a personally transformative experience. On the journey from head to heart, I found strength in loving support and empowerment in surrender. My experience of birth has become a touchstone of feeling more at home in the world, and in my own skin.
Becoming Home unfolds against the backdrop of contrasting cultures – eastern and western, traditional and modern. It braids together my experiences of Bali, of pregnancy and birth, and my own very personal shifts in the process.
My fears about giving birth arose from growing up in a culture focused on pain, inconvenience and risk mitigation on birthday. It was hard to trust that everything might be just fine. As a child, I had also felt vulnerable and unsafe, even in my own home. This was due to early experiences with divorce, drug and alcohol addiction and sexual abuse. From a child feeling unsafe, I grew up to be hyper-vigilant adult. These influences made it doubly difficult for me to surrender to the unknown and trust my body’s innate wisdom.
This also made it doubly worthwhile to do so. The fear that focuses on preventing worst-case scenarios often prompts interventions – even in healthy, normal pregnancies like ours – that also numb the potential of best-case scenarios. Our water birth at a small neighborhood clinic in Bali was a sacred experience that put me more in touch with myself and my sense of the divine as well as with my husband and our baby.
Becoming Home teases out the potential for birth to be more than birth – even a beautiful, gentle, empowering, loving and healthy one. It can be an opportunity to reach deep inside oneself and find the comfort of Home within. Our story also illustrates the contrasts not only between cultures of birth (modern and medicalized / gentle and natural) but also fundamental cultural contrasts between the cultures of Bali and the USA (east and west). There are some stark contrasts here that are no more vividly represented than in the context of such a precious and vulnerable experience as pregnancy and birth.
While modern medicine has a crucial role to play in emergencies, our pregnancy and birth were textbook normal, without pathology or complication. I believe that if we had chosen a hospital birth with many interventions, as is common in contemporary America, we would have forgone a huge opportunity. I hope our story inspires others to take their own leaps of faith – in birth or in life. Growing up in Iowa, I always dreamed of traveling the world, but I never imagined I would give birth in a bathtub in Bali.
Melinda Chickering is a writer and journalist who lives in Bali. Pre-order her book Becoming Home: A Memoir of Birth in Baliat https://publishizer.com/becoming-home/ .